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Vegetarian Diets Can Reduce Costs of Responding to Global Warming

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  • CyberBrook
    *Vegetarian Diets Can Reduce Costs of Responding to Global Warming *The New Scientist February 10, 2009
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 16, 2009
      *Vegetarian Diets Can Reduce Costs of Responding to Global Warming

      *The New Scientist February 10, 2009

      *Eating less meat could cut climate costs_

      *By Jim Giles_

      _Cutting back on beefburgers and bacon could wipe $20 trillion off the
      _cost of fighting climate change. That's the dramatic conclusion of a
      _study that totted up the economic costs of modern meat-heavy diets._

      _The researchers involved say that reducing our intake of beef and _pork
      would lead to the creation of a huge new carbon sink, as _vegetation
      would thrive on unused farmland.__

      The model takes into account farmland that is used to grow extra food
      _to make up for the lost meat, but that requires less area, so some
      _will be abandoned. Millions of tonnes of methane, a potent greenhouse
      _gas, would also be saved every year due to reduced emissions from _farms.__

      These impacts would lessen the need for expensive carbon-saving
      _technologies, such as "clean coal" power plants, and so save huge
      _sums, say Elke Stehfest of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment
      _Agency and colleagues._

      *Flatulent feeders__

      *Climate-change experts have warned of the high carbon cost of meat _for
      several years.__

      Beef is particularly damaging. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is
      _released from flatulent cows and by manure as it decays. Furthermore,
      _to produce a kilogram of beef (2.2 pounds), farmers also have to feed
      _a cow 15 kg of grain and 30 kg of forage. Grain requires fertiliser,
      _which is energy intensive to produce.__

      Stehfest has now weighed the economic impact of beef and other meats
      _against the cost of stabilising carbon dioxide levels at 450 parts _per
      million - a level that some scientists say is needed to help _prevent
      dangerous droughts and sea level rises.__

      If eating habits do not change, Stehfest estimates that emissions _would
      have to be cut by two-thirds by 2050, which is likely to cost _around
      $40 trillion.__

      If, however, the global population shifted to a low-meat diet - _defined
      as 70 grams of beef and 325 grams of chicken and eggs per _week - around
      15 million square kilometres of farmland would be freed _up. Vegetation
      growing on this land would mop up carbon dioxide. It _could
      alternatively be used to grow bioenergy crops, which would _displace
      fossil fuels.__

      *Supermarket labels_

      *_Greenhouse gas emissions would also fall by 10% due to the drop in
      _livestock numbers, she calculates. Together, these impacts would _halve
      the costs of dealing with climate change by 2050.__

      To help consumers, the environmental cost of meat, in terms of carbon
      _emissions per portion, could also be included in the purchase price,
      _says Stehfest.__

      The costs sound about right, says Raymond Desjardins of Agriculture _and
      Agri-Food Canada. However, it may be unfair to compare future _farms to
      current ones, he adds.__

      Journal reference: Climatic Change (DOI: 10.1007/s10584-008-9534-6)

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